The Bears were proficient from both sides of the 19-foot arc, hitting 65 percent of their shots from the field, while the Mustangs were on fire from close in, draining 24-of-37 two-pointers (65 percent), but struggled from distance making just 1-of-11 long-range bombs.
In what veteran head coach Kent Smith has been looking for, his Bears finished strong, making up a three-point deficit early in the final frame to claim a 73-61 win, sealing the deal at the free throw line and keeping the visitors scoreless for the final 2:25 of the cross-county rivalry action.
“We finally ‘finished’ a game,” declared a happy Smith after the game. “We got a strong rally there in the fourth (period) and were able to put pressure on them defensively to make them take some tough shots.”
“We’ve lost a lot of tight games (this season) in the fourth, but tonight we did what we needed to do,” he praised. “We got good balanced scoring (four players in double figures) and we took care of the ball.”
Earlier in the evening, the fifth-ranked Bradley girls did what they’ve done for most of the season, building a quick advantage and steadily increasing it throughout the contest to notch a 62-42 victory over the visiting Lady Mustangs.
“We’re still missing that instinct to put teams away, but it’s hard to complain about a 20-point win over a county rival,” commented third-year Bearette coach Jason Reuter. “We seem to get a big lead and then have mercy on our opponents, instead of getting them to tap out.”
After facing region nemesis Cookeville Saturday evening (see related story this page), the Bradley squads will turn their attention to arch-rival Cleveland High and key battles in the Raider Dome Tuesday evening to begin the second half of the District 5-AAA schedule.
The Bearettes (15-1, 6-0 District 5-AAA) claimed a 27-point victory in the first meeting between the crosstown rivals, while the Blue Raiders (11-6, 5-1) snatched a 63-61 win on the Bears’ (8-8, 4-2) home floor in early December.
Also Tuesday, Walker Valley will head across the river to face Rhea County, a trip both Bradley and Cleveland made this week and came away with wins. The Mustangs (9-8, 1-5) claimed a 63-57 win when the teams met in the district opener at the end of November at the “The Stable,” but the Lady Mustangs (7-11, 2-4) will be looking for revenge on the Lady Eagles (14-5, 3-3).
Bradley put the first five points on the scoreboard in Friday’s finale, but after a scoreless opening four minutes, coach Bob Williams’ Stallions hit their stride and fought back to even the game at 7-all before going up 13-10 when Dustin Swafford put in a paint basket with a minute left in the initial frame.
On the ensuing trip down the floor, Bear senior Bryce Copeland was fouled on a baseline drive with 35.5 ticks on the clock. The complaints from the Mustang bench drew a technical foul, resulting in a five-point swing as the Bear senior nailed all four of his free throws and junior Logan Cox added another charity toss after getting hacked on a 3-point attempt at the 17.6 mark.
Caio Hysinger put the Mustangs back in the lead with a hoop and some harm on a drive for an old-fashioned three-point play with 3.4 on the clock for a 16-15 edge at the first break.
The lead changed hands seven times in the second period with freshman Bradley McCurdy coming off the bench to drain a 3-pointer from the corner with eight ticks on the clock to give the Bears a 35-33 edge as the teams went into the locker rooms.
The struggle continued after the intermission with Walker Valley fighting back from a pair of four-point deficits to tie the score twice, but once again a McCurdy bomb from the top of the key proved to preserve the home team advantage, but an offensive rebound putback by Tucker Godfrey in the final seconds of the third period made it a 50-49 difference.
The Mustangs galloped out of the fourth frame gate with baskets by Jackson Brownfield and Hysinger to take what turned out to be their final lead of the night.
Suddenly down 53-50, the Bears put seven unanswered points on the board in less than a minute as Copeland hit a free throw and then a driving jumper before Taylor Bentley and Caleb Cain had back-to-back steals which they converted into points forcing coach Williams to call a timeout to try to stem the tide.
The teams traded the next 10 points before Cox drilled his third 3-pointer of the night to push the Bradley lead to five points with 3:15 on the clock, seemingly taking some wind out of Walker Valley’s sails.
Austin Harwood was able to get a steal and got coast-to-coast with it 40 seconds later to pull the difference back to three points, but that would be the final Mustang points of the evening.
All of a sudden losing the range on their shots, Walker Valley was forced to foul and the Bears sealed the victory by hitting 7-of-9 free throws down the stretch for a deceptive double-digit final.
Copeland paced the balanced Bear attack with 16 points, while Cox and senior post Matt Whitmire netted 14 apiece. Cox was perfect on three long-range attempts, plus sank 3-of-4 free throws, plus he grabbed four rebounds and copped a pair of steals. Whitmire cleaned the glass for a half dozen caroms.
Bentley was 3-of-4 from both the field and 5-for-6 at the charity stripe for 12 points, plus he dished out four assists and swiped a trio of thefts. Cain was 4-of-5 from the paint for eight points.
The Bears had 15 assists and 21 made field goals, including 16-for-23 (70 percent) in front of the arc and 6-of-11 (55 percent) from beyond it, plus won the rebounding battle by a 24-15 margin.
Hysinger topped the Mustang board with 16 points, plus he dished out four assists and copped four steals. Godfrey netted a dozen points, while Lukas Korn had eight points and the same amount of rebounds.
Brownfield collected nine points, five caroms and a pair of blocked shots on the evening, while Harwood netted eight points.
LADY MUSTANGS 42
Walker Valley scored two of the game’s first three baskets before Bradley went on a 16-6 run, allowing just a pair of Lady Mustang 3-pointers (one by Victoria Jones and the other from Rachel Beavers) in the final six minutes of the opening period.
Beavers drained two more treys and Kathleen Alomar drove the lane for a basket early in the second frame to narrow the gap to four points, but that was as close as the visitors would get as Brooke Copeland went on a tear, netting 10 of Bradley’s final 14 points of the opening half. The 6-foot-2 junior ripped the chords for 21 of her game-high 29 points in the first two frame, leading the Black-and-Gold to a 36-23 edge at the intermission.
Copeland’s dominance continued after the break as her final eight points in the first three minutes as Bradley opened the second half with a 10-2 run to push the 20-point difference the game would end with. She completed her double-double for the evening with 15 rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals.
Junior Rebecca Reuter, the other half of the 6-foot-2 “Twin Towers” duo, had a strong effort as well with a dozen points and 10 rebounds for her usual double-double.
Ten of the 12 Bearettes to hit the floor got in the scoring column as the team drained 25-of-51 two-pointers, but couldn’t find the bottom of the net on seven 3-point attempts. Bradley held a 35-28 rebounding edge on the night.
Beavers’ nine points topped the Walker Valley tally, while Victoria Jones, Wendi Watson and Alomar added a half dozen markers each.
Jaclyn Griffith battled the taller Bearettes for 11 rebounds, while Rachel Percy snagged a half dozen caroms.
“I’m proud of the way we played hard and didn’t back down,” commented Lady Mustang coach Jessica Stone. “We did the things we had been doing in practice, so I’m glad to see that. We didn’t give up. Every girl we put in gave it her all and that’s all we can ask.”
“Walker Valley keep coming at us no matter the score,” commented coach Reuter. “I’m proud of our girls. We weren’t hitting from outside but we dominated inside and kept hitting the boards.”
Bradley claimed victory in both junior varsity games for a clean sweep of the north enders.
The JV Bearettes held the visitors to single digit scoring in each of the first three periods on their way to a 52-36 win.
Lydia Pippenger drained four 3-pointers on her way to 15 points for Bradley, while teammate Taelor Hill netted a dozen of her 14 points in the second half. Holly Sutton helped out with 12 points for the victors.
Lady Mustang D.J. Mowery also had a big second half, pumping in 14 of her game-high 16 points, while teammate Kathleen Alomar netted all seven of her points in the first two frames.
The JV boys game was tight throughout with one or less points separating the teams in three of the four periods. The Bears were able to post a five-point edge in the third frame to claim a 43-36 victory.
Dee Crisp was the only player to reach double figures in the contest with 11 points, while his Bradley teammates Ty Morgan and Walker McGowan helped out with nine and eight points respectively.
Matthew Meadows and Beulah topped the Mustang effort with a half dozen points each.
It was the second win in four days for the JV Bears, who blasted Rhea County 59-40 earlier in the week behind a 23-point effort from Bradley McCurdy. Crisp had seven and Tucker Maroon six in the victory of the Eagles.
Walker Valley 10 13 8 11 — 42
Bradley Central 18 18 14 12 — 62
LADY MUSTANGS (42) — Rebecca Beavers 9, Victoria Jones 6, Wendi Watson 6, Kathleen Alomar 6, Lindsey Macon 5, Rachel Percy 4, Aaliyah Pitner 3, Jaclyn Griffith 3, D.J. Mowery, Peyton Davis.
BEARETTES (68) — Brooke Copeland 29, Rebecca Reuter 12, Whitney Donaldson 5, Baylee Carroll 4, Taelor Hill 2, Kayla Withrow 2, Brandi Whitted 2, Maddie Stallings 2, Kayla Delane 2, Maggie Thompson 2, Lydia Pippenger, Lindsey Davis.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 5 (Beavers 3, Watson, Jones); Bradley none.
Free throws: Walker Valley 9-of-21; Bradley 10-of-17.
Records: Walker Valley 7-11, 2-4 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 15-1, 6-0 District 5-AAA.
Walker Valley 16 17 14 12 — 61
Bradley Central 15 20 15 23 — 73
MUSTANGS (61) — Caio Hysinger 16, Tucker Godfrey 12, Jackson Brownfield 9, Austin Harwood 8, Lukas Korn 8, Colton Morrow 6, Dustin Swafford 2, Logan Russell, Gabe Cartwright, Logan Melton.
BEARS (73) — Bryce Copeland 16, Logan Cox 14, Matt Whitmire 14, Taylor Bentley 12, Caleb Cain 8, Bradley McCurdy 6, Daniel Clark 2, Dee Crisp 1, Baylor Terrell.
3-point goals: Walker Valley 1 (Hysinger); Bradley 6 (Cox 3, McCurdy 2, Bentley).
Free throws: Walker Valley 10-of-18; Bradley 23-of-31.
Records: Walker Valley 9-8, 1-5 District 5-AAA; Bradley Central 8-8, 4-2 District 5-AAA.